A veteran lawyer turned law maker for Inkatha Freedom Party who, in February this year, called on President Zuma to legalize the use of Marijuana or cannabis for medicinal purposes, Mario Ambrosini died on Saturday after a protracted battle with cancer. He was 53.
Ambrosini was born in Rome, Italy on 26 October, 1960. His father, Raffaele Orian was a law professor who ultimately passed away at an early age resulting in that young Mario had to be adopted by relatives at an early age. However, his tenacity which became evident at an early age helped him as he went on to study law at Georgetown University Law Center in the United States. He also worked in that country in several capacities and areas like the Philadelphia Constitutional Foundation as well as the Human Right Advocate International which expended its energies in negotiating, formulating and drafting constitutions.
In the early 1990s, he made his first move to South Africa, appearing first of all under the banner of Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Inkatha Freedom Party at the Convention for a Democratic South Africa where he helped draft the IFP’s constitutional submissions. He was to adopt the official role of legal advisor to the IFP leader for the decade from 1994 to 2004. Sometime in 2004, he left the country to reopen his legal consultancy, Ambrosini and Associates in the United States of America. He was, however, back on South African soil and was made into a member of parliament for Inkatha Freedom Party in 2009. In May this year, an emaciated Ambrosini lifted himself from his wheelchair to take the oath of Parliament, a position he held until his time of death. He is survived by his wife, Carin and son Luke Williams.
Apart from his contribution to debate in parliament, some of his achievements include assisting with putting together the local immigration system as well as drafting KwaZulu Natal’s constitution. In February this year, Mario Oriani Ambrosini prepared and presented to President Jacob Zuma, a draft legislation to allow the legalization and use of Marijuana or cannabis for medicinal purposes after he was diagnosed with a rare, inoperable form of lung cancer. According to him, after the diagnosis, he opted out of chemo-therapy as it would only add a few months to his life but had so many side effects. He opted instead for alternative medicine which is how he came about the use of Marijuana for medicinal purposes.
He has been described as a ‘valiant fighter’ for individual rights by the African National Congress while Zanele KaMagwaza-Msibi, the leader of National a freedom Party which only recently broke away from IFP, said of Ambrosini ” He was such a creative, critical, independent and lateral thinker and he was not afraid to speak his mind.” A former work colleague, Chief Justice Magoeng Magoeng described Ambrosini as an astute jurist who remained steadfast in his convictions as a human rights activist of note. The Inkatha freedom Party was still to produce a statement on Mario’s passing later in the week.